The emeritus professor, who retired in 1987, was the last surviving member of the original entomology faculty.
Dr. Bacon chaired the department (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology) from 1967 to 1974. In 1964, Mrak appointed him to spearhead the UC Davis conversion of the two-semester system to four quarters.
Dr. Bacon was chair of the entomology department when it moved to the newly constructed Briggs Hall in 1972. An appreciative faculty presented him with a plaque thanking him for his “stewardship during a period when new teaching and research areas were initiated and when a great increase in the numbers of students enrolled in the department occurred has contributed significantly to the future of the department and to entomology.”
As a 41-year UC agricultural entomologist, Dr. Bacon specialized in the biology, ecology and population dynamics of insects associated with field crops. He pioneered the biological control course on the UC Davis campus and was instrumental in forming the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group. He is credited with co-authoring the term, “integrated pest control.”
Colleague Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology, said: "The last time I visited with Oscar was this past year when he attended a music performance by my band at the senior home where he lived the last years of his life. He was amazingly sharp and active at 96!"
“When I first arrived in Davis in 1962 Oscar gave me an orientation tour to see California agricultural activities and visit his field research projects just north of Woodland," Gary said. "Years later, after he became department chair, I was impressed and appreciative that he actually took time to visit my active field research activities with bees near Dixon. Oscar was very supportive in many ways to our Entomology faculty and highly regarded as a professional. He was always cheerful, thoughtful, considerate, and fun to be with, whether at morning coffee breaks, faculty meetings or at Christmas parties. He was an amazing man in all respects. He enriched all of our lives, professionally and socially.”
Emeritus professor Robert Washino, former chair of the department and former associate dean, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, recalled: “I was appointed to the faculty in Entomology during the Bohart to Bacon transition period as department chair and so my interaction with Oscar dealt mostly as a newly appointed junior faculty. However, during all the years since then as a colleague and friend, I've never, ever heard Oscar make an unkind remark about anyone in teaching/advising, research and administration.”
Said distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp, who collaborated with Bacon on alfalfa leafcutter bees in the mid-1960s: "I always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Oscar as a meticulous scientist, outstanding teacher, leader and person. Oscar and his research associates, Dick James and Walt Riley, in collaboration with a grower, Dan Best in the Woodland area, designed and tested shelters to provide shade and ventilation for these relatively new pollinators for alfalfa seed production. The shelters were successful.”
“Oscar and his crew also tested pesticide effects on these bees and discovered a number of biological traits important to their management as commercial pollinators," Thorp said. "Oscar co-authored the first Cooperative Extension publication on the alfalfa leafcutting bees with several of us.”
Dr. Bacon, who humbly said of himself: “I'm the jack of all trades and master of none,” pursued many diverse interests. He was not only agriculturist, entomologist, researcher, professor, administrator, but a mechanic, furniture builder, boating enthusiast and ag history docent. He restored antique cars and boats, from rustic Model T's to a 1964 mahogany Chris-Craft cabin cruiser. As a wood carver and artist, he crafted furniture and carved birds.
Born Nov. 8, 1919, Oscar grew up in Sanger, Fresno County on a 60-acre family farm. He was an only child. Oscar harvested grapes, figs and peaches, drove tractors, raised 4-H pigs and renovated Model T's.
“Back then it seemed like nearly every farm had an old worn-out Model T along the fence lines,” he recalled in a feature story published in 2009 on the UC Davis Entomology website. “A boyhood friend from a neighboring ranch and I would give a farmer a couple of dollars for his car and then restore it.” The Tin Lizzies purred back to life.
Young Oscar attended school in a two-room schoolhouse; he recalled that grades one through four shared one room, and grades 5 to 8, the other.
Nature fascinated him. “I collected insects and watched birds and mammals and collected rocks and minerals.”
Oscar graduated from Sanger High School, Reedley Junior College and Fresno State College, majoring in zoology. He planned a career as a ranger naturalist with the National Parks Service, but the federal agency had no openings. So he accepted a position with the USDA Dried Fruit Insect Laboratory, Fresno, as a field aide.
It proved to be a two-year stint. In 1943, his boss steered him toward entomology and encouraged him “to get a degree” at UC Berkeley and return to the USDA.
Oscar went on to earn two degrees from UC Berkeley: his master's degree in entomology in 1944, following a year of study, and his doctorate in entomology in 1948.
His major professor at UC Berkeley was the legendary entomologist and aphid specialist Edward O. Essig (1884-1964), but Oscar worked more closely with another accomplished entomologist, Abraham Michelbacher (1899-1991). “Abe was like a second father to me,” he recalled.
Dr. Bacon landed his first full-time job in entomology in 1946 as an associate in the agriculture experiment station. Upon completing his Ph.D., he became a junior entomologist and instructor. As a Ph.D., his starting salary was less than $5000 a year.
His first major crop work: controlling aphids in spinach. Then it was on to other crops, including sweet corn, seed alfalfa, potatoes, small grains, tomatoes and melons.
“In 1953 I had the opportunity to come to Davis to develop my own programs,” he related. “I was extremely grateful for that opportunity.” At the time, the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology offered a two-year ;Farmers' Short Course' on the Davis campus for students interested in farming. The career-oriented program was phased out in 1959.
“Stanley Freeborn (first chancellor of UC Davis) and his wife welcomed us to campus,” he said. “He was very gracious--a very nice person.”
At the time, the original faculty members included Richard Bohart (1913-2007), insect systematics and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), apiculturist. Today the Richard Bohart Museum of Entomology and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility bear their names.
It was an era when secretaries typed manuscripts from handwritten notes; “office space” consisted of temporary buildings or renovated garages; and faculty (usually all male) wore a tie and jacket in the classroom. It was also a period of rapid growth and steady challenges.
In 1964 UC President Clark Kerr announced the plan to convert the entire UC academic system from two semesters to four quarters. UC Davis Chancellor Mrak asked Oscar Bacon to head the conversion efforts at Davis. “We had 1687 courses, and they all had to be reviewed and shortened from 15 weeks to 10 weeks,” recalled Bacon. Remarkably, the conversion took only a year.
Oscar Bacon was considered UC's “No. 1 Alfalfa Seed Insect Man.” In 1987, the California Alfalfa Seed Production Board recognized him for 13 years of service. In 1975, the Pacific Seed Association, based in Los Angeles, named him “Man of the Year.”
Integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, distinguished professor of entomology and former vice chair of the department and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, said he has long admired Bacon as an advocate for agricultural entomology research.
Said Zalom: “Many entomologists may not appreciate that the credit for first using the term ‘integrated control' is generally attributed to Abraham Ezra Michelbacher and Oscar Bacon, who in a 1952 paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology on control of codling moth mentioned the importance of ‘considering the entire, entomological picture in developing a treatment for any particular pest.' ”
Michelbacher and Bacon developed an effective integrated control program of the important pests of walnut, Zalom said. They “described methodologies for selection, timing and dosage of insecticide treatments for the codling moth to preserve the parasitoids of the walnut aphid that had achieved biological control following their introduction to California.”
“This was an important step in the development of the IPM paradigm and is still relevant,” Zalom said. "I also appreciate his role in the development of the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group at UC Davis that produced many students who are working as pest management practitioners across the state and across the country.”
Dr. Bacon is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Davis, and a daughter, Bonnie Krisiak, son-in-law Steve Krisiak and granddaughter Stephanie Krisiak, all of the Sacramento area. He and his first wife, the late Dorothy Flagg Bacon, raised three daughters, Beverly and Gayle (now both deceased), and Bonnie.
Some of the highlights of his life:
Field-Oriented Entomologist: He worked on field crops, including seed alfalfa, potatoes and small grains, establishing a state, national and sometimes global presence (potato crops in Bolivia). He targeted the lygus bug, the main pest of alfalfa seed production. “The lygus bug has no natural enemies, so we had to depend on insecticides. Then the lygus bug developed resistance to those insecticides.” He developed economic thresholds, determining at what point the cost of pest damage exceeds the cost of pest control.
In 1944 Bacon showed that Catalina cherry moth, which infests Catalina cherry and large galls of the blue oak, is an important pest of walnuts in the Sacramento Valley. Today it attacks certain varieties of walnuts throughout the state.
Research: Bacon researched whether an 18-acre field of alfalfa seed would show the same yields without insecticides. Would predators and parasites be able to control the pests? His three-year study showed the organic field yielded 200 to 300 pounds per acre instead of the normal yield of 600 to 800. “Agricultural chemicals will be necessary on certain crops for some time to come,” he concluded. “The world's food supply would certainly not exist without the control measures as we know them today.”
Teaching and Advising: As a devoted teacher, Dr. Bacon developed “The Natural History of Insects” into one of the most popular undergraduate classes on the UC Davis campus. He initiated the biological control course at UC Davis. He advised scores of undergraduate and graduate students. He helped launch the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group Program. When he retired, Bacon received a plaque from the graduate program applauding his dedication, perseverance and accomplishments. It's one of his cherished awards “because it's from the students.”
Administration: His role as a chancellor's assistant for UC Davis Chancellor Emil Mrak included the project of converting the UC Davis two-semester system to four quarters: completed in one year. As chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1967 to 1974, he moved his department to the newly constructed Briggs Hall in 1972. Upon his retirement as chair, the faculty presented him a plaque thanking him for his “stewardship during a period when new teaching and research areas were initiated and when a great increase in the numbers of students enrolled in the department occurred has contributed significantly to the future of the department and to entomology.”
Heidrick Ag History Center: In 1996, Bacon began volunteering at the Hay's Antique Truck Museum, Woodland, which later merged with the Heidrick Ag History Center. He's known as “the friendly docent with first-hand knowledge of the farm equipment.” In his boyhood, he drove tractors similar to those on display. Today he volunteers once a week, more on special occasions.
U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: Bacon took up boating and fishing in 1956. In 1975, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. In December 1987, Bacon was elected commodore of a district that encompassed northern California and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. He taught boating safety, inspected crafts and patrolled the Delta waters for more than 25 years. The U.S. Coast Guard, the parent organization, awarded him a citation in 1988, praising his accomplishments and dedicated support.
Artist: In 1990, Bacon enrolled in a woodworking class in Sacramento, and carved birds from basswood, sugar pine and tupelo blocks, and textured and painted them. “There's a bird in every block,” he recalled. “It's tedious and time consuming but very rewarding. I've never been interested in making them for sale.” His favorites include an American kesterel sparrow hawk that he carved in 1997. His other favorites include a white-breasted nut hatch, white crown sparrow, California quail, stellar jay and a redwing blackbird. He's also completed other works, including a replica of a team of Clydesdale horses pulling a Anheuser-Busch wagon. “No, the company has never seen it,” he said.
Restoration: Bacon advanced from restoring rustic Model T's in his childhood to renovating antique cars and boats. At one time he owned four boats and five cars. One of his prized possessions: a 30-foot Chris-Craft cabin cruiser, a 1964 model that he restored in 1973 and sold in 2008. He has also crafted furniture for his home and family. Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, still marvels at how Bacon could tuck his 6-foot, 4-inch frame inside his Triumph TR3, a tiny British sports car he restored.
All Things Entomological: Bacon served as president of the Northern California Entomology Society and held membership in the Entomological Society of America and the Pacific Branch of ESA.
Cooperative Extension: In 1987, the UC Davis Cooperative Extension (CE) group honored him for his public service, naming him “the best problem solver.” The group included CE specialists Vern Burton (deceased) and Eric Mussen; research associate Wayne Johnson (deceased); and administrative assistant Shirley Humphrey.
(Editor's Note: At his request, the family will not be holding a memorial service."
His appointment was announced this week by Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter.
Nadler chaired the Department of Nematology for six years, until the two departments merged in 2011. He succeeds Michael Parrella, who has accepted a position as the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho, effective Feb. 1, 2016.
“Steve is an exceptionally strong researcher and teacher and has considerable administrative experience,” said Parrella, who served as chair from 1991-1999 and from 2009-2015. “I am confident he will continue to move the nationally ranked Department of Entomology and Nematology forward. It is good to know that I am leaving the department in very good hands.”
“I am pleased to have this opportunity to lead the Department of Entomology and Nematology,” Nadler said. “The department has remarkable faculty, and I look forward to working with them and our dedicated staff and students to advance our research, teaching and extension goals.”
The Department of Entomology and Nematology was recently ranked as the top program of its kind in the United States and has an annual budget of almost $20 million. The department has 21 ladder-rank faculty, 40 graduate students, an undergraduate major with 40 students and oversees the undergraduate animal biology major with more than 300 students.
Nadler joined the UC Davis faculty in 1996 as an associate professor and associate nematologist, advancing to professor in 2001. He was named chair of the Department of Nematology in May 2005 and held that leadership position until June 2011.
Nadler researches the molecular evolutionary biology of free-living and parasitic nematodes and teaches undergraduate classes in parasitology and nematology, and a graduate class in molecular phylogenetic analysis.In 2013 he was awarded the Henry Baldwin Ward Medal by the American Society of Parasitologists; this is the society's highest research honor. His research program is well funded by the National Science Foundation. He is a co-author (with L. S. Roberts and J. Janovy, Jr.) of Foundations of Parasitology (9th edition, McGraw Hill), globally the most widely used undergraduate parasitology textbook.
“Much of my recent evolutionary research,” Nadler said, “has focused on nematodes of the suborder Cephalobina, a group that includes numerous bacterial-feeding species in soil, but also some parasitic taxa hosted by invertebrates. My current NSF research is designed to discover and characterize nematode biodiversity in soil by applying high-throughput sequencing of individual nematodes and metagenetics.”
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Nadler received his bachelor of science degree, cum laude, in biology in 1980 from Missouri State University, Springfield. He holds a master's degree (1982) and a doctorate (1985) in medical parasitology from Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans.
He did postdoctoral research from 1985 to 1986 as a National Institutes of Health research trainee in the Experimental Parasitology Training Program, Center for Parasitology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, followed by two years as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research associate at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science, Baton Rouge.
Nadler joined the biological sciences faculty at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, as an assistant professor in 1990. He was promoted to associate professor in 1995.
Active in the American Society of Parasitologists (ASP), Nadler served as the organization's president from 2007 to 2008. He is an associate editor of Systematic Parasitology; subject editor of Zookeys (molecular systematics and phylogeny); and a member of the editorial board of Parasitology (British).
His appointment, announced earlier this month by Neal Van Alfen, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES), was confirmed by Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef.
“Dr. Parrella is an outstanding administrator, researcher, entomologist and teacher,” said Van Alfen. “He is known worldwide for battling pests of environmental horticulture, and with that same enthusiasm, talent and commitment, he will lead the department over the next five years. He is an inspiring and innovative leader with a strong vision of the future.”
Parrella replaces interim chair Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology. Kimsey, who completed a one-year term July 1, will continue in a leadership role as the department's vice chair.
A member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1989, Parrella chaired the department from 1991-1999 before becoming associate dean, Division of Agricultural Sciences, CA&ES. That appointment ends this year.
“I am excited about coming back to lead the Department of Entomology,” Parrella said. “The department has recently added three exciting new faculty and despite some significant budget challenges that lie ahead of us, I am confident that the department can continue its significant research, teaching and extension/engagement roles that has led to its No. 1 national ranking.”
In addition to his entomology appointment, Parrella holds a joint appointment with the Department of Plant Sciences.
A native of Elizabeth, N.J., Parrella received his bachelor of science degree in animal science in 1974 from Rutgers-State University of Cook College, New Brunswick, N.J., and his master's and doctorate degrees in entomology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va., in 1977 and 1980, respectively. He began his academic career as an assistant professor at UC Riverside in 1980 and was promoted to professor in 1988. In 1989, Dr. Parrella relocated to the UC Davis campus.
Parrella maintains a teaching/research program in entomology and develops integrated pest management (IPM) and biological control strategies for the environmental horticulture industry. He is widely known for his applied research that has advanced IPM and biological control for this industry that includes floriculture crops, nursery and bedding plants and landscape plants in the urban environment.
In demand as a speaker at national and international conferences, he gave the keynote address, ‘Worldwide Development of Sustainable Production Systems in Greenhouses” at the Greensys 2009 Conference, sponsored by the International Society for Horticulture Science last month in Quebec City, Canada.
Parrella has trained more than 30 students and postdoctoral students, many of whom work in floricultural entomology. He is the author of more than 375 publications that are equally split between scientific and trade journals. For 10 years he wrote a monthly column for the trade magazines Greenhouse Grower and GrowerTalks.
The recipient of numerous awards, Parrella was selected a fellow of the 5700-member Entomological Society of America (ESA) in 2008. ESA honors up to 10 fellows annually for their outstanding contributions in entomological research, teaching, extension or administration.Parrella received the Emma Lausten Horticulture Award from Rutgers University in 2007; the Virginia Tech Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998; the Alex Laurie Research Award from the Society of American Florists in 1997; the Futura Research and Education Award from the Professional Plant Growers Association in 1991; Recognition Award from the Entomological Society of America in 1987; and the California Association Research Award in 1986. He is the Yolo County representative to the Sacramento/Yolo County Mosquito Abatement District Board of Trustees.
Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said he pleased to have Leal on board. “Professor Leal's leadership will strengthen our world-renowned Department of Entomology,” the dean said. “His research is innovative and respected by entomologists throughout the world and has a beneficial impact on pest management in California agriculture.”
“The UC Davis Entomology Department is one of the leading entomology departments in the nation and the world,” Leal said, “and what we do here reflects on entomology everywhere.”
Leal said he accepts the leadership challenge and opportunities “that will take us to new directions and to move forward.”
Entomology professors Frank Zalom and Thomas Scott will serve as the vice chairs.
Leal joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 2000 as an associate professor and advanced to professor in 2002. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); a past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology ISCE); and secretary and upcoming chair-elect of Section B--the Physiology, Biochemistry, Toxicology, and Molecular Biology section--of the Entomological Society of America.
Leal received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in his native Brazil and advanced degrees from universities in Japan: his master's degree in agricultural chemistry from Mie University, and his doctorate in applied biochemistry from the University of Tsukuba.
Before joining the UC Davis faculty, Leal served as research leader of the Science and Technology Agency of Japan and the Bio-Oriented Technology Research Advancement Institute (BRAIN) and head of the Laboratory of Chemical Prospecting at the National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Sciences in Tsukuba.
When Leal received the AAAS Fellow award earlier this year, entomology professor John Hildebrand of the University of Arizona praised him as “an international leader in entomology and one of the top chemical ecologists in the world.”
“UC Davis achieved a coup when it attracted Dr. Leal to its faculty in 2000,” Hildebrand said, adding that that Leal's “exceptional abilities and promise benefit the students and research enterprise of UC Davis as well as the entomological and chemical-ecological communities in the United States.”
UC Davis entomology professor James Carey (who teamed with Hildebrand and Robert Page, director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, to nominate Leal for the AAAS Fellow award), described him as “one of the most gifted scientists I know—intelligent, disciplined, creative and motivated.”
“Young scientists seek him, funding agencies support him, honorific committees award him prestigious prizes and honors, UC Davis hired him, scholars respect him and his colleagues befriend him,” Carey wrote in the nomination papers.
Leal is best known for his research on the identification and synthesis of insect sex pheromones and on the chemical ecology and chemical communication of insects and potential applications for pest control. His research has practical implications in explaining how insects communicate within species, how they detect host and non-host plants, and how insect parasites detect their prey.
Leal was just named the recipient of the 2007 Silverstein-Simeone Award in Chemical Ecology at ISCE's 22nd annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, July 15-19. Cited for “outstanding work at the frontiers of chemical ecology,” he will be presented the lecture award in Jena, Germany, in 2007. The award is named for Robert M. (Milt) Silverstein and John B. Simeone, founding editors of the Journal of Chemical Ecology.
The Department of Entomology, headquartered in Briggs Hall, is a large academic department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with instructional, research and outreach programs. The department is comprised of 23 faculty, 1 adjunct faculty, 4 Cooperative Extension specialists, 54 professional researchers, 18 lecturers, 9 teaching assistants, 32 graduate student researchers, and 35 academic and staff support personnel. The department currently has 23 undergraduate students and 36 graduate students.
On and off-campus sites house academic and administrative offices, laboratories, field buildings and other special facilities, including those at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier. The department's annual operating budget, including contracts and grants, gifts, and endowments, totals approximately $31 million.